Teach Plus Vision For A Post-Vergara California

Teach Plus Vision For A Post-Vergara California

The Vergara ruling presents an unprecedented opportunity to chart a new course forward in California – one that is better for students and better for teachers than the current broken system. We call on California’s teachers and union leaders to be part of the solution in charting a new path forward in which teachers participate in difficult decisions around quality teaching. We see the following as essential components of any new statutes and policies resulting from this ruling:

Granting of tenure as an earned and meaningful professional status: California should adopt a timeline and process that makes tenure a true accomplishment that is emblematic of a significant professional milestone. Many states make tenure decisions after four years and, similarly, California should extend the time period for this important decision. This will provide a more reasonable timeframe to determine a teacher’s potential to be successful in the classroom.

Streamlined and strengthened due process: Teachers deserve due process rights that protect against arbitrary decisions. In practice, dismissal proceedings currently are cumbersome, time consuming and expensive for both teacher unions and school districts. Unions and management need to come to agreement on clear and adequate evidence needed to dismiss a poorly performing teacher so a fair yet streamlined process is in place.

Fair treatment for all teachers of all experience levels: Any landmark change risks a pendulum swing that can go too far and the danger with the Vergara ruling is that it could open the door to arbitrary teacher dismissal, which does not benefit teachers or students. A system without clear performance metrics could put experienced and high-performing teachers (who have higher salaries) at greater risk of dismissal than their early-career peers (who have lower salaries ) The solution is clear: Districts should focus on performance in both layoff and hiring decisions and take steps to ensure that neither early-career teachers nor later-career teachers are disproportionately affected. This does not mean there is no place whatsoever for seniority in layoff decisions but other factors, including performance, must be given greater weight so schools can consistently and reliably keep their best teachers in the classroom for their students.

Lastly, while the Vergara ruling has determined that one set of factors contributes to inequitable results in many urban schools, we cannot for a moment pretend these are the only factors that contribute to the current indefensible inequities. Nor can we pretend that addressing the Vergara issues alone will ensure equitable access and results for California’s students. Teach Plus urges all parties with a genuine interest in improving results for California’s low-income and minority students to join us in striving to ensure that all of our teachers, particularly in our highest-poverty schools, have the working conditions, growth opportunities and resources they need to succeed on behalf of our kids and our state’s future.